Controlling slugs and snails

A patty pan seedling with its stem eaten through

A patty pan seedling with its stem eaten through

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We’ve mentioned previously that we have a big problem with slugs and snails on the Quest for Veg allotment plot.

A few weeks ago we planted out the climbing beans we had been nurturing in the greenhouse only to return to the plot and find that the whole lot had been devastated overnight. Their leaves had gone and the stems had been stripped.

Our beans had the leaves and stems stripped

Our beans were stripped overnight

They clearly like beans since they ate the lot so quickly. But many of our other plants have been attacked, too. These pesky gastropods have munched their way through our basil, radishes, herbs and salad crops. They have eaten into our courgettes, leaving huge holes in the fruits., and eaten through the stems of our patty pan squashes.

How are we protecting our plants?

This season we’re trying Growing Success Advanced Slug Killer*, which has been sent to us for review by our friends at Westland.

Growing Success Advanced Slug Killer
This product has been approved for use by organic growers, which is good news. It means that any wildlife that eat slugs or snails won’t be affected.

It’s easy to use. We just pour some pellets into the lid and shake them out over the areas we want to protect.

And it has proved very effective on both slugs and snails. We just have to keep an eye out for when it needs reapplying.

Having applied these slug pellets, we direct-sowed bean seeds where the previous seedlings had been eaten and they are growing away quite happily.

Replacement beans growing up canes

We sowed replacement bean seeds direct

Not all slug pellets are the same

If you are going to use a chemical control, please be aware the non-organic controls use the active ingredient metaldehyde.

When ingested, metaldehyde can be transformed into a different toxin, which can be hazardous for the hedgehogs, birds and other wildlife that consume slugs.

While eating one slug that has ingested metaldehyde, probably wouldn’t kill an animal, the chemical builds up in their systems causing harm. Pets especially dogs, like to hoover up piles of pellets, and this has the ability to kill your pets. Be very careful when applying this product.

The organic products, such as the one we’re using, use ferric phosphate. This active ingredient is, at the moment, approved as an organic product in the UK, but there is, and will continue to be, further debate.

Non chemical controls

Biological control

There is a biological control available called Nemaslug*. This product is microscopic nematode worms that live in the soil. They enter slugs’ bodies and infect them with bacteria that cause a fatal disease.

As this product contains living organisms, be sure it is stored in the correct conditions and use within a reasonable period of time. The nematodes need temperatures above 5C and prefer free draining soil to clay.


Say slug control to most people and the chances are they’ll say eggshells right back to you. But are they effective? Short answer, no.

Matt Peskett over at Grow Like Grandad conducted a whole series of tests on a range of potential barriers from eggshells to chilli powder, filming how snails reacted to various substances. It makes for interesting viewing and his site is well worth a visit.

One thing to bear in mind is that while a barrier may be effective in stopping a snail, it may not stop slugs which can move through the soil.


Many people swear by beer traps: containers sunk into the ground and part-filled with beer. However, they need checking regularly because they can become extremely smelly and unpleasant if left.


Slugs and snails are often lurking in cool, dark, slightly damp places such as underneath stones or plastic buckets. They also tend to be more active at night. So, you can go out after dark with a torch and pick them off by hand.

This would not be my preferred method as I would be likely to cause more harm than good stumbling around our plot after dark.

Encouraging the predators

Some birds, frogs, toads, hedgehogs, slow-worms and ground beetles eat slugs and snails. If you create the conditions for them, you may be able to get a little help with your pest control.

For more information, try Sarah Ford’s excellent book 50 Ways to Kill a Slug*. The chances are that you will need to try a combination of methods, and will need to stay vigilant.

*Amazon affiliate links – you can click to buy and we may get a small percentage, but it doesn’t affect the price you pay. Thank you for your support.


One thought on “Controlling slugs and snails

  1. Pingback: Sowing French climbing beans in deep root trainers | The Quest for Veg

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